My Life in Food: Gennaro Contaldo

'My mother, she was rubbish at cooking. I learnt from my father'

Gennaro Contaldo was born on Italy's Amalfi Coast in Minori, and credits these roots for much of his cooking. He was executive chef of the now-closed Passione restaurant, which was awarded the Tio Pepe Restaurant Best Italian Restaurant 2005. He has written several cookbooks, including Passione, which won Best Italian Cuisine Book at the World Gourmand Cookbook Awards in 2003. He is credited with teaching Jamie Oliver to cook. He has now teamed up with Bertolli to call on the nation to back its favourite Italian delis in the second annual Bertolli Spread Olive D'Oro Awards. To vote visit

What are your most- and least-used pieces of kitchen kit?

I could not survive without my favourite knife. I use it all the time. It is hard to think of what is least used – I use everything in my kitchen. I only use a wooden spoon for risotto. It doesn't break like other spoons so it works very well.

If you only had £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

This would be different depending on if I am in Italy or England. But I would buy pasta to cook and just cook a delicious meal for myself. It is cheap and I could cook it just how I like.

What do you eat for comfort?

Spaghetti. I cook it with chillies and a big tomato to slice. With chillies, it's special. Cooking pasta is my speciality, and I wish everybody could taste it.

If you could eat only bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Bread. I love, love bread. It is the best food. It's so delicious and warm. It reminds me of home and I love it so much.

What's your desert island recipe?

I would catch and cook an octopus. It reminds me of home. I would cook it like my dad, though his is the best I will ever have and I haven't managed to beat it. Everyone always says mine is the best they've ever had, but I say they should have tried my dad's.

What's your favourite restaurant?

It is in my home of Minori and it's called Giardiniello. I'm not just saying that because it is my home. The food is truly delicious.

What's your favourite cookbook?

Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David. I really believe it because she loved cooking so much and put so much love into everything she cooked.

Who taught you to cook?

My father. My mother, she was rubbish at cooking. She only had one or two dishes. My father was an incredible cook. He was not a professional cook, but because all his family used to cook, he could put two and two together and make it taste so good. One of the reasons was that he only used seasonal ingredients. If it was something out of season, he wouldn't cook it.

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